Iota Exchanges - Set 4

iota, founded in 1999, is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of light and movement by constructing a database of information about artists (biographies) and their works (films, videos, performances, instruments, etc.) as well as bibliographic references (books, articles, exhibition catalogs, etc.). It's emphasis on dynamic media such as film and video animation represents another flavor of visual music.

The following exchanges were taken from the mid 2000s. Due to HTML limitations on page length, links to additional exchanges are found at the end of this page. One approach to accessing the information in these exchanges is to read them from beginning to end. Given that many (but not all) subjects in the iota Exchanges can be found in list below, another approach is to use the links in the list. Most of the items in the subject list relate in one way or another to visual music and compositional thinking.



Issues addressed:



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 13:18:22 -0700
Subject: [iota] re: mapping

Andrew D. Lyons wrote:

" ... I think the best is yet to come. Although it may be different in visual arts, few look back to the beginning of a musical movement for its master works - they come at the end of a long period of experimentation and development. Athough we are indeed at liberty to borrow from those pieces that work, shouldn't we be looking for a truely "visual music" rather than processes that are easy to implement, and that will give us another model with no basis?ÊI know how tempting it can be to do this - and I have to try hard not to do it myself sometimes - but Im with Bernard Roddy here - we need to discuss this and come up with some accurate guidelines - not waste valuable time working with a whole lot of unfounded assumptions. --Ê"

Pellegrino - Using this sort of format (an online discussion group) it's highly unlikely, in fact not even desirable, that we'll "come up with some accurate guidelines" in a search for "a truely "visual music"". At this stage in the evolution of visual music finding agreement on the correct path for all seems only a pipe dream. The best we can hope for (and we're getting it) is an exchange of perspectives from beginners to veterans. There's obviously a preponderance of folks just beginning to explore the most basic and probably least fruitful of the neurological correlates - connections between visual color and sonic pitch. And that's great for starters. But given that visual music is a dynamic medium based on the integration of evolving sound and light structures, eventually folks will probably get around to grappling with the higher orders of dynamical systems complexity both physically and psychophysically. I'm interested in seeing just how long that will take.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 00:24:19 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] Merleau-Ponty

Andrew D. Lyons wrote:

>Visual representations of music are highly subjective...

Pellegrino - That's true if by representations you mean mappings. If the visual manifestations come from the same place as the music, they can be completely objective even if they're mediated by algorithms or processing systems so as to be moved away from no brainer sync. What we're talking about here is the pure form of visual music. Everything else is more or less art posturing. That shouldn't be interpreted as a negative statement because posturing is standard for the bulk of artifice.

>So I pose the question - is there any potential for the existence of (universal) doctrine regarding our area? If so to what degree?

Pellegrino - That's similar to the question I asked myself early in the 1970s - What is the set of principles that integrates composing for the human eye and ear? That question led me to wave theory and all the different names it's taken since that time - cymatics, chaos, dynamical systems, complexity, and still coming. Every field and generation seems to like to use its own name to describe the same fundamental process. I've been studying THE LIVING ENERGY UNIVERSE, a book by a couple of Harvard/Yale Ph.D.s who moved out to Arizona to set their spirits free. Their premise is that all dynamic systems have memory, are integrative, are alive, and are evolving. This book is great fun even though they never mention the arts - they're scientific priests of the religion of secular humanism. Nevertheless, they articulate all the compositional principles I've been working with for over three decades. They're very good at tying together the history of scientific thought (including all facets of contempory thought) and they make a great case for the importance of integrating psychology with all the hard sciences - not just psychophysics, psycho-everything. If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, you'll find it in this book despite its new age title.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2000 00:30:05 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] transcendental egos etc.

Aaron Ross wrote:

>As I see it, the question at hand is not whether or not we can percieve
>objective reality, but whether objective reality exists at all. I think Ron is
>describing an oscilloscope-type mapping, which is about as objective as we can
>get vis-a-vis data representation. You don't need an infinite regress of
>self-consciousness to express electronic music simultaneously as sound waves
>and lissajous patterns.

Pellegrino - Oscilloscopic imagery is a manifestation of the audio. It's not a mapping. Mapping is more or less arbitrary which tends to make it forced and mechanical regardless of how well it works. Manifestation is, by definition, readily apparent. Most educated folks have seen lissajous patterns. Very few have ever explored or witnessed the creative potential of the sort of Lissajous imagery that emerges from exactly the same wave set as the music, a wave set that works equally well for the eye and the ear. That's a whole new field of composition (composing wave sets that work equally well for the eye and the ear). I've spent countless hours exploring that field and I always use some of those explorations in the performance-multimedia events I do. My shows are partly field tests and I'm struck by how people continue to respond most deeply to music-generated laser animations based on a 25 year old system when, on the same show, I always use some the latest hardware and software (sometimes not yet out of beta). There are always some people who seem to know intuitively what's real.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2000 01:23:39 -0700
Subject: RE: [iota] Disjunctive and dissonance

Tom Ditto wrote:

>Whitney's defines music as a sequence of "right" notes. He takes exception
>to any rules that are imposed on the composer that force the music away from
>the one and only "right" choice for each note. This led him to reject
>dissonance as per serial compostion, and he further was incensed by Cage
>whose notes are quite deliberately random. The one led to the other, in my
>opinion. Once you allow for the rules that Schoenberg imposed, serialism
>follows. Once any note is allowed, then the notes can be random. Finally,
>David Tudor just closed the keyboard and sat silent while the audience
>listened to the random sounds in the auditorium.

>You get the drift.

Pellegrino - I'm hearing the BIG LIE of atonality in serial music that's been perpetrated and perpetuated by music critics and historians who weren't quick enough to follow the harmonic changes in certain strains of 20th century music (highly chromatic music (quick changes of tonal color)). Schoenberg and his Viennese pals, Berg and Webern, changed tonal centers far too fast for those folks to follow so they decreed their music had no tonal centers. (Just tell the lie enough times and those who don't examine it very carefully will believe it's true.) They also decreed that the music was dissonant because the melodic and harmonic structures were based on intervals too complex and too far up in the harmonic series. Both decrees are completely arbitrary. Who's to decide where music should stop in the harmonic series (the chord of nature (reality!)) or how fast the tonal changes should be? The key to all this business is tuning (consonance) and dynamic detuning (dissonance) retargeting tuning and I believe that's where Whitney was heading with his concerns about harmony and "right" notes.

I had the good fortune in the mid 60s as a graduate student in music composition, theory, and philosophy to study for several years with Rudolf Kolisch, a relative of Schoenberg as well as the leader of the best new music string quartet in the early to mid 20th century. Kolisch and his quartet premiered many new works by Schoenberg and other experimental composers so he knew exactly how that music was supposed to go. During my last year in graduate school Kolisch along with Rene Liebovitz (another serialist insider who was a visiting artist at the time) taught University of Wisconsin undergraduate musicians how to play the music of Schoenberg properly. It was a revelation. The keys to those incredibly beautiful and harmonious performances were tuning, timing, and balance. Any interval or any chord can be completely harmonious if those keys are applied. Every interval and every chord can be found in the harmonic series which means they can all be harmonious if those keys are applied. Music composers who give their work serious thought use the entire continuum between the ends of simplicity and complexity. There can be beautiful harmony in complexity (higher in the harmonic series) though it may be just a bit more difficult to achieve than the harmony in simplicity (lower in the harmonic series).

That Cage's music is random is another one of those BIG LIES perpetrated and perpetuated by music critics and historians who didn't have a niche for the man and his art. I've programmed a lot of Cage's music, spent time with him when he was a visiting composer at Oberlin, and performed with a number of his collaborators. I never detected anything random about his music. In fact he's one the earliest 20th century composers to use algorithms and systems in his compositions; those early experiments struck the music world as being very threatening so they branded him an outcast early on but embraced him later on. Cage is also the real father of the acoustic ecology movement. When he composed silence, it was a zen koan saying use quiet to learn to listen.

>Well, I've always been bored to tears by Gregorian chants, but I can
>appreciate how important those early composers were in building the castle
>that Bach decorated with his Baroque sculpture. They laid the foundation.
>Here's where academics should now be spending their energies rather than
>writing theses on "abstract expressionism and the NY School" while lauding
>the alcoholic brush strokes of Jackson Pollack or explaining away the
>emperor's nude clothes in Cage, Rothko, or who have you. We need the simple
>stuff firmly established, or I don't understand how western music flowered.
>Please enlighten me.

>Tom

Pellegrino - I bet you'd change your mind about Gregorian chant if you heard them sung in the context for which they were composed - by a group of monks during a liturgical service in a cathedral. I recently hear Chanticleer, a San Francisco male vocal group do a full concert of chant at a cathedral in San Francisco; it was truly moving. Recording does a grave injustice to this kind of music; you need to experience it in the raw as it was intended. It also stands solidly on its own without the need for any baroque decoration.

I'd love to hear you or anyone else talk about the idea that "We need the simple stuff firmly established". Personally I've always been bothered by that idea in a field like emerging technology and the arts because I'm always thinking in terms of points of departure, change, and evolution - the idea that the ground is always shifting under our feet and taking new forms so that you're inspired to stay light on your feet. Establishing something, that is, stopping the shifting ground just seems to neutralize the energy. I've seen it happen a number of times in the history of electronic music and it always moved me to spend more and more time with my acoustic piano and collection of fake books trying to figure how those song composers could pack so much feeling from their era in those simple melodies and chord changes.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 22:28:25 -0700
Subject: [iota] lovely non-linear behaviour

Mic Berends wrote:

>tightly bracketing events is fun, then widen brackets which mesh and
>disintegrate and re-appear. hard to do real-time of course unless you're
>working with a bpm pulse which lets you 'anticipate' events on a grid.

Pellegrino - Hey Mic, you're talking composition here and you're absolutely right, it is fun. In fact it's so seductive you can lose yourself in it for days on end. It's the way living systems work.

>hey Ron, i just got a cheap oscope to visualise lissajous so the lasers don't
>have to be turned on all the time. (miss the ++lovely non-linear behaviour of
>the cheap galvanometers as audio level changes, though...) what i'm hoping to
>do is build a cheap vector scanning system by using the audio diffs. is this
>patently silly or possible IYO?

Pellegrino - My laser tech friends tell me it's good for lasers to be on for at least a few hours every day. Lasers seem to like and need the exercise of pumping out photons and having them race back and forth in their little tubes. It seems all the while they're racing those photons are hoping to be the ones that get to exit through that little hole so they get their chance to light up that image that wants to appear. The principle works; my oldest laser has 25 years of pumping and my youngest has 12 years.

The non-linearity of galvanometers is what makes the laser animation/projection system such a great visual music system. Again, it's like playing with living systems - never just "right" and completely predictable but close enough to be friendly, serendipitous, and playful. I use a different size galvo for my x, y (deflectors) and z (chopper). Each has unique response characteristics and resonance frequencies. The principle of non-linearity is also what gives every acoustic music instrument its own voice. And if one has any kind of an ear for natural feeling sound all your electronic sound designs will be imbued with that same non-linear living quality. And of course your dynamic images will be too.

The way to get non-linearity with oscillographics is to design it into the wavetrains before they go into the oscilloscope. Playing the electron stream is a completely different game than playing the laser light but interesting nevertheless. Lean on and massage your wavetrains every way you can imagine before they go into the oscilloscope. My favorite road synthesizer for my laser based visual music work is a 27 year old Synthi AKS which has true stereo output, frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, waveshape modulation, phase modulation, ring modulation, and a lightning fast pin patching system that allows anything in the system to communicate with anything else in the system (in loops of various sizes if desired). The point is that combining all those modulation types before you apply the signals to the oscilloscope inputs can produce the non-linear look you rightly like so much. Analog systems seem to be better at it (more flexible) than digital systems (digital tends to be more locked into a set commercial vision). But if you understand what's happening with processing algorithms in your digital synths and you're willing to massage them a bit you can end up with a lot of non-linear looking wavetrains. When I'm working in my studios I design systems that include combinations of analog synths and processors, digital synths and processors, and gear that converts acoustic to MIDI and analog control signals. The principle is to explore anything you have in any combination to see what comes of it. Keep a log of what you like and how you got it and in due time you'll have a sweet collection of studio and performance systems.

If you don't plan to hire out to use your laser system to write Coca Cola, IBM, or such, a cheap vector scanning system or a cheap galvo system for that matter will probably serve you well. The more accuracy, linearity, and high frequency response you want, the more it will cost you, as you well know. If you're looking for unique image making possibilities, cheap to moderate works just fine. I've always been a fan of affordable technology. I don't want to rent it. I want to live with it and play with it whenever I have the urge.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 23:32:04 -0700
Subject: [iota] Mickey Mouse sync

Andrew Lyons wrote:

>Now that we've developed the dissonance theme, it might be good to
>re-combine it with the original {music video - mickey mouse} theme...

>In a purely musical paradigm, harmonic dissonance and musical counterpoint
>are both largely vertical constructions - they depend on degrees of
>sychrony, and a temporal relationship between concurrent notes and melodic
>lines. Even if there is temporal offset involved, they are still events
>that call on one sensory modality - hearing. These events call on similar
>memory, and relationships between events are re-reconstructed across
>greater durations.

Pellegrino - Sensory modalities aren't as separate as most seem to believe. They're neurological subsets of the brain. They're input sensors to the brain. The information they convey is integrated in the brain. The brain plays a crucial role in directing the attention of the senses as well as filtering, parsing, and organizing on a larger scale the information the senses convey. Multimodal experiences create more powerful experiences because they enable us to simultaneously attend to more dimensions of an event than possible via a single mode. Plus, via multimodal experiences the eye and the ear evolve more rapidly because, mediated by the brain, a memory feedback loop is created between them that provides food for growth at both ends (ear and eye) as well as the middle (brain).

Temporal and spatial morphology is noted by and stored mainly in the brain, so compositional principles like anticipation, retardation, suggestion, scaling, modulation, and offset work well cross-modally if your mind is attuned to them. The key word is attuned which is just another way of pointing to the importance of educating your ear/eye/brain network to go beyond Mickey. Furthermore, there must be a whole new set of visual music compositional principles that remain to be discovered and articulated. Now there's a good dissertation project.

>The human mind rarely constructs a causal relationship between sonic and
>visual events that aren't synchronous. Where the offset crosses the
>threshold between synchrony and asynchrony, such events can only be
>interpreted on a broader semantic level, as when watching most music video
>- which the mind happily attempts to do.

Pellegrino - Consider some commonly experienced Mickey Mouseless examples of asynchrony that refer to the same time/space/object:

  1. First you see lightning (or an explosive event) and later you hear thunder (or the sound of the explosive event). If you know the difference between the speeds of sound and light you can determine the distance separating you and the electrical or explosive events.
  2. You hear thunder but see no lightning but your brain knows lightning must have been somewhere so you pull a generic or maybe even a specific mage of it from your memory based on past viewings.
  3. You hear a mockingbird but you can't see it though you can recall what it looks like.
  4. You see a mockingbird that doesn't sing but you recall the sound of past songs.
  5. You hear the sound of a jet liner but its image takes well over a minute to come into view (a nice psychophysical twist here as the sound reaches you before the light).

Fleshing out and analyzing a list like this could be a valuable project for someone with a psychophysical bent. All of this is based on the principle of temporal and spatial morphology as experienced, duly noted, and remembered. If one is looking for subtlety and depth in visual music work, this is an area worth exploring. On the other hand one could just keep the simple mapping going; it seems to work just fine for the bulk.

>Without needing to wait for new experiments in audio-visual counterpoint,
>an examination of the contents of "The Films of Oskar Fischingers. Vol.
>1", demonstrates quite well the power of synchrony. Even when there are
>good ideas taking place independantly in the visual and sonic realm, it
>has nowhere near the impact of the pieces in which events are synchronous.
>Where audio visual events fall in an out of synchrony, it becomes apparent
>how much and in what way, the work improves with sychrony.

Pellegrino - Why let veneration for old masters block your view of the future? Just jump up on their shoulders and stand up for a better look. If they were worth their salt that's exactly what they'd want you to do.

Ron Pellegrino



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 00:58:02 -0700
Subject: RE: [iota] Disjunctive and dissonance

Tom Ditto wrote:

>Ron Peligrino wrote:

Pellegrino - Please don't change the spelling of my name. It's been in the family for a long time and all of us prefer the original spelling ;-)

>"I've seen it happen a number of times in the history of
>electronic music and it always moved me to spend more and more time with my
>acoustic piano and collection of fake books trying to figure how those song
>composers could pack so much feeling from their era in those simple
>melodies and chord changes."

>I'm quoting what little I can agree with in your last missive.

Pellegrino - The fact is that I'm not looking for agreement (it's boring); instead I am looking for intelligent argument. Now "the drift I'm getting" (because of your summary dismissal of my arguments against your use of the words atonal and random) is a sinking feeling that you barely have the faintest notion of what I was talking about when I used terms like harmonic, chromatic, atonal (your term), consonance, and dissonance in the context of the harmonic series (the chord of nature) to make my case for the BIG LIE of atonality. The frequency spectrum and specifically the chord of nature as unifying prinicples for dynamic structures in visual music have received virtually no attention on the iota list. It's been a long time coming and still nobody answers the bell. I'm also get the occasional spray that the iota list could be mainly populated by image makers with a fairly superficial understanding of music and that the expression visual music is just a trendy label that people want to associate with. Just in case you change your mind or anyone else wants to reply, at the end of this post I'll repeat my statements from that earlier post. I'm prepared to apologize profusely if I've missed the mark by much.

>My own fix on music history is related to those song composers who cruised
>through the 20th century defying the academics. There was one who put his
>feet in both camps, George Gershwin, whose serious music has always been on
>the top of my heap. I can listen to it over and over, and it simply gets
>better on each repetition. This fits my "shock of recognition" criterion for
>excellence. His work also conforms to Whitney's standard. What a sequence of
>"right notes" can be found in his concertos! He made choices that could not
>have been otherwise.

>Much more recently, some pop musicians took a no-holds-barred approach to
>studio recording and broke down barriers erected by academics and pop
>musicians alike. These carefree hippies let some new sounds out of the
>electronics that were proscribed by their supposed betters. I lucked into
>making 3D graphics for "2000 Light Years from Home", giving me a chance in
>1990 to revisit these aural experiments from 1966 by the Rolling Stones and
>friends. Although they could not reproduce the exact creation today (hence
>it falls short on a key component of emerging art: scoring), they did sniff
>out some important properties in the electronic studio. Here was a case of
>"how those song composers could pack so much feeling from their era in those
>simple melodies and chord changes".

Pellegrino - I was referring to the songs from about 1915-1960, especially those from the two world wars and especially the second world war. Those were songs that became pop tunes and jazz standards just before R? morphed and conquered the world as R?. The appeal of the 1915-1960 song literature was to the heart and the head. What you're referring to, with important exceptions (Beatles, Zappa, Hendrix, and Dylan and other song poets), is mainly focused on the groin. It's no coincidence that groin grabbing became a sort of pop music salute. Of course we're both taking about feeling but the difference is in chakra levels. I think a convincing case might be made for correlating evolutionary progress with the linked tendencies of dwelling in the lower chakras and being stuck in the lower levels of the chord of nature.

>As for BIG LIES (in BIG LETTERS), I credit your heros (Schoenberg and Cage)
>with a better dialect of New Speak than most others, particularly Cage. I
>also met him, in fact, I met him many times, since he lived on the commune
>with my mentor, Stan Vanderbeek, in Stoney Point, NY where I apprenticed,
>and I kept crossing paths with him in NYC and even Albany where I made a
>film about his performance of "Bird Cage." Cage was extremely persuasive
>when he spoke and wrote, but how you manage to dismiss his reliance on
>random composition is most astonishing. If he accomplished anything, it was
>making a convincing case for random composition. I recently read an account
>by David Tudor of their careful assemblage of tape snippets that were sorted
>by tosses of the dice. It took them months to assemble, and the process was
>pure hell as Tudor recounts. The account can be found in Joel Chadabe's
>recent book on _Electronic Sound_. Chadabe has a pleasant sense of humor and
>tells a good tale. He also was close to Cage and is a supporter. I'm not.

Pellegrino - Please don't put words in my mouth (I already have as many as I need). Nowhere did I use the expression "hero" in reference to Schoenberg and Cage although I have plenty of admiration for both given that they were originals in a world of followers and conformists and that they persisted in their visionary quests despite the ridicule of music and art philistines, ridicule which amazingly continues even today.

The Cage/Tudor process you briefly describe above is a system. There are two sets (the dice and tape snippet collection) that are interacting by way of an algorithm defined by Cage with possibly some of Tudor's input. In those days it was all done by hand and that of course was tedious unless you had the right attitude (maybe Tudor forgot why he did it at the time). In some ways Cage was early and in some ways he wasn't - Mozart used dice compositionally a long time ago and composers have been playing algorithmic games for centuries. Today both systems design and algorithms are leading compositional motivators (you don't have to accept everything they generate; just use whatever you like for your own reasons and if want to change part of it, you can do that too).

Incidentally, random is a technical term that you're misusing. The confusion is understandable because anyone who subscribes to notions like "right notes" is working within a fixed, static framework. In dynamical systems decisions may have been arrived at in a highly complex way but never random (a static concept). In dynamical systems the game is to trace the influences as wide and as deep as possible (butterfly and speeding BMW to a distant killer storm type of analysis) - extremely complex but not random. The terms random, chance, indeterminacy, and probability all have their own meanings and contexts. One of the sources of confusion is that most folks are still stuck conceptually in classical physics and, for one reason or another, haven't been motivated to understand the role of quantum physics in modern thinking.

>Perhaps my theory of twentieth century music history can be dismissed as a
>take off on a skit by Monty Python, but here it is. 20th century art was
>extremely thick on either end and very thin in the middle. Surely
>Schoenberg's romantic compositions are thick, and his 12 tone row concept
>led to some dense compositions as well. The contemporaneous works of
>Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Satie and others in that first decade are a vast
>storehouse of masterpieces. But things thinned out, and with the occassional
>masters like Bartok and Gershwin as towers looking down on a flat plain,
>there is little for us to remember fondly. The absolute nadir occurred in
>the numerical middle, with the early 50's nonsense of Cage. If the excuse,
>"Less is more" is allowed credance, then we might as well add "Love is hate;
>war is peace; and freedom is slavery." This would allow us the fullness of
>Orwellian New Speak and a true BIG LIE.

Pellegrino - "Nonsense" is one of those dismissive terms that often means the user just didn't get it. How's your Chinese? Chances are good that the language doesn't make any sense to you or to put in your terms, it's nonsense. On the other hand, to a billion plus people the Chinese language makes perfect sense. You might not get it, but they do. So if you're going to use a word like nonsense it makes sense to flesh out your meaning. That'll provide the basis for a discussion.

Your 20th century music history synopsis is a long way from a "Monty Python" skit but it is laughable. And sad too. The composers you listed are great but your ears have missed the glory of a golden age in music in your own country with giants like Ives, Partch, Ruggles, Copland, Ellington, Basie, Bird, Monk, and Dizzy roaming about the music world. The entire 20th century jazz scene has been breathtaking and continues today with people like the Marsalis brothers and their pals and many others. The songs that came out of tin pan alley and the Broadway scene are treasures that will be with us for a long time. Add Scriabin (the herald of visual music) at the beginning of the century, Europeans like Messiaen and Britten, Brazilian Villa-Lobos, Indian musicians like Ali Akbar Khan and Zakkir Hussain, and all those amazing real-time composer/performers including people like Oliveros who go barely noticed by the media but fill the air with wonderful music. Put it all together and 20th century music blooms like a pyrotechnical display. Go hear some great music before your time is up. And I don't mean recordings.

>Fortunately, the drought has ended. When niave song composers pushed the
>limits of the recording studio, audiences flocked to a music that was
>sophisticated enough to entertain the cognescenti. The dyke came down, and a
>flood of music rolled from computers so that today we have a new wealth of
>compelling compositions to rummage. I am partial to Glass, not because I
>think his work is an end destination, but because like Reich, he gave us a
>new beginning. Also his collaborations with Reggio and Sanborn put the music
>to non-narrative film. In 1974 I was composing pentatonic sequences with
>minor third transitions, but I wasn't really able to carry it much further
>than that. Glass gave my experiments some serious justification, and I'm
>glad that he did. Certainly he is being followed by many others with greater
>gifts for melody, and I think the cornucopia will spill an excellent harvest
>for our ears.

Pellegrino - In the early 70s there must have been many thousands of people "composing pentatonic sequences with minor third transitions [modulations is probably the term you're looking for]" and beginners of all ages are still doing it today. Fortunately, as many parents might say, it's just a phase and they'll grow out of it soon (fingers crossed!). Glass, on the other hand, has been stuck there for three decades but at least his audio levels are finally almost tolerable without ear plugs. I've been tracking Glass and Reich since the early 70s because when I heard them initially I knew their mechanical techniques were going to attract legions of followers. That music is so easy to replicate and mind numbing to hear. Despite all his imitators Glass remains the noodle master by far. I enjoy checking out his audiences; they look so hip but they also look like their minds have been smoked and snowed. From day one with Reich's music I've had this strange sensation of a little devil taking form from his music and radiating over to my temple with his little hammer tapping out those incessant little patterns. Glass and Reich, fathers of contemporary motor music. And they have so many children. Thank God there's still enough space in the music world to be free of the music infections.

*********************************************

The summarily dismissed previous post:

Tom Ditto wrote:

>Whitney's defines music as a sequence of "right" notes. He takes exception
>to any rules that are imposed on the composer that force the music away from
>the one and only "right" choice for each note. This led him to reject
>dissonance as per serial compostion, and he further was incensed by Cage
>whose notes are quite deliberately random. The one led to the other, in my
>opinion. Once you allow for the rules that Schoenberg imposed, serialism
>follows. Once any note is allowed, then the notes can be random. Finally,
>David Tudor just closed the keyboard and sat silent while the audience
>listened to the random sounds in the auditorium.

>You get the drift.

Pellegrino - I'm hearing the BIG LIE of atonality in serial music that's been perpetrated and perpetuated by music critics and historians who weren't quick enough to follow the harmonic changes in certain strains of 20th century music (highly chromatic music (quick changes of tonal color)). Schoenberg and his Viennese pals, Berg and Webern, changed tonal centers far too fast for those folks to follow so they decreed their music had no tonal centers. (Just tell the lie enough times and those who don't examine it very carefully will believe it's true.) They also decreed that the music was dissonant because the melodic and harmonic structures were based on intervals too complex and too far up in the harmonic series. Both decrees are completely arbitrary. Who's to decide where music should stop in the harmonic series (the chord of nature (reality!)) or how fast the tonal changes should be? The key to all this business is tuning (consonance) and dynamic detuning (dissonance) retargeting tuning and I believe that's where Whitney was heading with his concerns about harmony and "right" notes.

I had the good fortune in the mid 60s as a graduate student in music composition, theory, and philosophy to study for several years with Rudolf Kolisch, a relative of Schoenberg as well as the leader of the best new music string quartet in the early to mid 20th century. Kolisch and his quartet premiered many new works by Schoenberg and other experimental composers so he knew exactly how that music was supposed to go. During my last year in graduate school Kolisch along with Rene Liebovitz (another serialist insider who was a visiting artist at the time) taught University of Wisconsin undergraduate musicians how to play the music of Schoenberg properly. It was a revelation. The keys to those incredibly beautiful and harmonious performances were tuning, timing, and balance. Any interval or any chord can be completely harmonious if those keys are applied. Every interval and every chord can be found in the harmonic series which means they can all be harmonious if those keys are applied. Music composers who give their work serious thought use the entire continuum between the ends of simplicity and complexity. There can be beautiful harmony in complexity (higher in the harmonic series) though it may be just a bit more difficult to achieve than the harmony in simplicity (lower in the harmonic series).

That Cage's music is random is another one of those BIG LIES perpetrated and perpetuated by music critics and historians who didn't have a niche for the man and his art. I've programmed a lot of Cage's music, spent time with him when he was a visiting composer at Oberlin, and performed with a number of his collaborators. I never detected anything random about his music. In fact he's one the earliest 20th century composers to use algorithms and systems in his compositions; those early experiments struck the music world as being very threatening so they branded him an outcast early on but embraced him later on. Cage is also the real father of the acoustic ecology movement. When he composed silence, it was a zen koan saying use quiet to learn to listen.

>Well, I've always been bored to tears by Gregorian chants, but I can
>appreciate how important those early composers were in building the castle
>that Bach decorated with his Baroque sculpture. They laid the foundation.
>Here's where academics should now be spending their energies rather than
>writing theses on "abstract expressionism and the NY School" while lauding
>the alcoholic brush strokes of Jackson Pollack or explaining away the
>emperor's nude clothes in Cage, Rothko, or who have you. We need the simple
>stuff firmly established, or I don't understand how western music flowered.
>Please enlighten me.

>Tom

Pellegrino - I bet you'd change your mind about Gregorian chant if you heard them sung in the context for which they were composed - by a group of monks during a liturgical service in a cathedral. I recently hear Chanticleer, a San Francisco male vocal group do a full concert of chant at a cathedral in San Francisco; it was truly moving. Recording does a grave injustice to this kind of music; you need to experience it in the raw as it was intended. It also stands solidly on its own without the need for any baroque decoration.

I'd love to hear you or anyone else talk about the idea that "We need the simple stuff firmly established". Personally I've always been bothered by that idea in a field like emerging technology and the arts because I'm always thinking in terms of points of departure, change, and evolution - the idea that the ground is always shifting under our feet and taking new forms so that you're inspired to stay light on your feet. Establishing something, that is, stopping the shifting ground just seems to neutralize the energy. I've seen it happen a number of times in the history of electronic music and it always moved me to spend more and more time with my acoustic piano and collection of fake books trying to figure how those song composers could pack so much feeling from their era in those simple melodies and chord changes.

Ron Pellegrino

*********************************************



To: iotacenter@egroups.com
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 12:19:27 -0700
Subject: Re: [iota] instruments?

randall jones wrote:

>...hopefully instruments and scores
>can be made which are useful to a whole community of artists. but
>ultimately, every single artist does have a different idea of what
>visual music means, hell, of what painting means. if there's any use to
>be had out of that line of thinking, i guess it's that the artist should
>be able to customize the tools. you can bend a canvas this way and
>that, stand a goat on it, etc. no medium can remain vital without
>ongoing redefinition. but one tap on most software and it breaks. is a
>problem.

Pellegrino - Going beyond customizing a single tool (which will always carry the voice (preferences) of the designers and their extended art family) individual artists looking to create an original voice should think of all hardware and software tools as modules in their own particular instrument. After presets have served their educational function, dump them. If you don't dump them, you'll look and sound like everyone else using that particular piece of hardware or software. Seek out and learn to love quirks; and then put together those you love best into performance and production systems that reflect your personal perspective.

The dues are heavy but the rewards are great. The longer your tenure in the field the more powerfully expressive your instrument (that collection of interactive modules you've been refining all those years).

Ron Pellegrino



If you find valuable what you've read above you might want to look into the other sets of iota exchanges.

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 1

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 2

Go to iota Exchanges - Set 3



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